Sorry, JavaFX -- Java 8 won't help you matter

The rich client technology has devotees, but analysts doubt its viability as the RIA space loses ground to mobile apps

JavaFX, the Java-based rich client platform introduced by Sun Microsystems in 2007, has been refreshed as part of Oracle's rollout of Java 8, but doubts remain about how much of an impact it can ever make.

The open source JavaFX 8, unveiled in March, features UI controls, an embedded graphics stack, a modernized theme, 3D graphics capabilities, and additional HTML5 support. Its toolset has been designed around performance and graphics, and it can work well on embedded systems.

John Rymer, an analyst at Forrester Research, however, remains unconvinced of JavaFX's viability. "We don't see much if any interest in JavaFX," he said. "Java 8, yes, but not JavaFX. I'm afraid JavaFX is too little, too late. JavaFX certainly didn't accomplish Sun's goal for it, which was to make Java the top environment for Web client and mobile development."

Indeed, platforms like HTML5, Google Android (itself based on Java), and Apple iOS are the most prominent names in mobile development. Like Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, JavaFX has been pushed to the background. Still, it has supporters. At consulting firm and software developer Welland, JavaFX was just used to update a desktop application that assists with moving data between databases. JavaFX gives the application a modern look, said Cole Markham, senior software engineer at Welland. "[With] the people I've talked to, I've seen a lot of interest in JavaFX, but that's within the Java community." Markham also likes JavaFX as a successor to Swing GUI technology.

But analyst Michael Cote, of 451 Research, sees JavaFX as a fading rich Internet application technology. "I think the days of the RIA are long gone and have evolved into what we call mobile and tablets. HTML5, Android, and, of course, iOS handily won." He lumps JavaFX in with Flash and Silverlight as soon-to-be-legacy platforms and points to an graphic that shows a dearth of jobs for JavaFX programmers as of January 2013.

Oracle has demonstrated JavaFX on Android and iOS, though the Java runtime itself is not permitted on iOS devices. But Rymer sees Oracle having a tough go with JavaFX. While Java is leveraged on the server side in mobile and multichannel applications, it is not nearly as pervasive on the client. Oracle is trying to fix this with JavaFX and Java ME (Micro Edition), Rymer said. "The odds are against wide success, but you never know in software."

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